Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rivets & Robots

noisms' post yesterday about an Alternative History for a CP2020 campaign reminded me of an abandoned idea I once had for a VSF/Steampunk Mekton Z campaign.

It all started when I got a copy of Columbia Game's HarnWorld, "A Real Fantasy World." (I'm not sure what possessed me to buy it. I think it was some kind of promotional deal. After all, I've never played HarnMaster, although I've heard good things about it.) It's an atlas comprehensively detailing the imaginary planet of Kethira and it's solar system. The style in which it's presented is very modern, and not at all reminiscent of a medieval book. This, and the fact the the Kethira's continents bear a vague resemblance to Earth's continents, got me thinking that it would be great as a parallel world setting.

In particular I decided to use it for a VSF/Steampunk world of rival 19th century-style empires, using Mekton's MTS to design zeppelins, land juggernauts (giant tanks), boilerplate mecha -- all the usual trappings. (Come to think of it, this is one setting in which the lumbering, overheating 'mechs of BattleTech would be right at home.) The PCs would be members of the Ironclad Dragoons, fighting Prussian-esque blackguards, pseudo-Tsarist scoundrels, and uncovering the blood soaked truth of their own kingdom's conquests.

Not terribly original, I know. And it was all for nought, because I couldn't get any players interested. But I still find it appealing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

When is a dungeon not a dungeon?

Groknard's review of an old gaming magazine involves a scenario for Star Trek that's little more than a routine dungeon crawl wrapped in a space suit. That begs the question of how interchangeable rpg elements are. After all, couldn't it be argued that Orcs, Elves and Drow just pseudo-medieval analogs of Klignons, Vulcans and Romulans? How easy and desirable is it to transpose the typical fantasy adventure to a sf setting?

Take, for example, generic sourcebooks like Flying Buffalo's Citybook series. They're intended for use in a standard fantasy setting, but I've always thought that, mutatis mutandis, they would serve equally well as material for a space-opera campaign. "Monsters" become "aliens", "wizards" become "espers", you get the idea. The same goes for the typical dungeon. There are countless fantasy dungeons out there that could be easily redesigned as sf adventures. They could be the ruins of an ancient and powerful alien species, or the deserted base of visitors from afar. Furthermore, it doesn't have to be set underground. It could be an abandoned space station, a derelict hulk, or a mysterious asteroid. There are many possibilities.

Granted, you probably wouldn't want to base an entire campaign on this kind of thing, but it would be fun as an occasional episode. At the very least they would make entertaining settings for one-off adventures, like the OVAs in Mekton Z.